Monday, February 25, 2008

Team RP: People Power Spirit is Alive in the Filipino Youth!

Many doubted but much more believed that the spirit of the 1st EDSA People Power Revolution is still very much alive in the Filipino Youth today.

In a show of force and in response to former Pres. Cory Aquino's call for the youth to get involved, almost a thousand young Filipinos from all walks of life braved the rains to join Team RP's Concert for Truth, Accountability and Reform which was held last night (Feb. 25,2008) at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City. In a show of force youth leaders from different schools such as Ateneo, UP, DLSU, UST, Miriam and PUP joined Team RP's call for Truth, Accountability and Reform. Bankers, Doctors, Lawyers, Journalists, Businessmen, Teachers, NGO Workers and other young professionals also took time out to join the concert which started with a Forum on Truth, Accountability and Reform. The forum started with ZTE-NBN Whistleblower Joey De Venecia sharing with the audience his take on how this flawed and corruption-laden deal was entered into by our government. After De Venecia, a representative from the Union of Catholic Student Councils of the Philippines (UCSC) spoke about the need for young Filipinos to get involved and remain vigilant especially in these troubling times. To cap the forum, the Sumilao farmers talked about their long wait for their land despite a promise made by President Arroyo that she will award them their land early this year.

After the forum and at exactly 6pm, Team RP led a noise barrage along Katipunan Avenue which was participated in by thousands of vehicles that passed by during that time. The regular noise barrage is organized by the BUSINA movement, which Team RP is part of. BUSINA stands for Buong Bayan Sinisigaw Tama Na, Itama Na! BUSINA is a growing movement pushing for Truth, Accountability and Reform which counts the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB), PAKISAMA and CODE-NGO among its members.

As soon as the noise barrage ended, the concert began with the very energetic hosts Erick Habijan and Jigjig Bautista introducing Team RP to the audience. Performers in the concert included Empty Siren Boulevard, Formula Juan, the CGE Band and Smoke My Cuban. In the middle of the concert, Noel Cabangon led the candle-lighting ceremony while also leading the crowd in singing, Bayan Ko. Testimonials of support were also given to Team RP and the Filipino Youth by noted Akbayan leaders Etta Rosales and Rep. Rissa Hontiveros-Baraquel, and Soc Banzuela of PAKISAMA, an organization that represents the farmers and peasants sector. Other notable personalities who joined the concert included Bishop Deogracias Yniguez and Ang Ladlad Founder Danton Remoto. To cap the night, Noel Cabangon sang songs which made everyone in the audience feel once more the spirit of EDSA People Power I as he encouraged every Filipino to continue to remain vigilant and proactively push for genuine and lasting reforms in our country.

Aside from just enjoying beautiful music, Team RP also used the concert as an opportunity to invite young Filipinos to volunteer for upcoming activities that will continue to work towards achieving its goals of promoting Truth, Accountability and Reform in our government. Among the initial action areas that Team RP is planning to do are as follows:

- To continue to push for the Senate investigations on the highly-controversial ZTE-NBN Deal to continue and finish.
- To push for the repealing of Executive Order 464 which prevents Cabinet members from testifying at the Senate without the permission of the President.

-To ensure that proper charges are filed against people whether inside or outside the government who have been part of the rampant graft and corruption which is happening in our government.
-To lobby for the formation of an indepedent council that will investigate scams, scandals and controversies which involve the President and the First Family.

- To push for a more transparent Government Procurement system to ensure that we will no longer have controversial and flawed deals such as the ZTE-NBN Broadband Deal.
- To push for electoral reforms such as the automation of elections, appointment of highly-qualified, ethical and clean COMELEC Commissioners and a stricter implementation on the regulation of election spending.
- To push for the awarding of the land to the Sumilao Farmers and the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP)

Team RP is composed of youth leaders and young professionals who believe in reform not rhetoric. It was formed as a response to an email I sent two weeks ago which asked, Where are the FilipinoYouth?, the concert last night showed us that indeed there are still many young Filipinos who want to make a difference in our society and who will no longer stand idly while our government continues to wreck our democratic institutions. Last night, many more young Filipinos joined Team RP and now, we also invite you to join us in making a stand for our country and our Future as we continue to work hard for a better Philippines. If you want to join Team RP, please send your complete name and contact information to Steph Cuevas at 0926-6255620 or email us at . Team RP would also like to give special thanks to Dr. Tony La Viña and the Ateneo School of Government, and the Administration of the Ateneo de Manila University for all the support that it has given us.

To all those who went and took part in Team RP's Concert for Truth, Accountability and Reform, thank you very much and we look forward to having you again in our future activities! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! Mabuhay and Kabataang Pilipino!

Postscript to Team RP Concert

Born on the 26th of February
Team RP Concert Postscript
By: Ryan Chung

22 years ago, Filipinos became the focus of the world's attention. A few hours after Marcos left the country, my dad was rushing my heavilypregnant mom from Forbes in Makati to Chinese General Hospital. Surprisingly, he recounted that there were very few people on the roads he drove through EDSA. People were dispersing and the trash was being cleaned up mere hours after Marcos had departed from Malacañang.They say that being born on a holiday carries some special meaning to it.

Before people started calling me Ryan, I was better known as"Pippo" (derived from People Power) thanks to my grandmother. My relatives also keep track of my age with the number of years sinceEDSA I and vice-versa.Fast forward to 2008, who would know that the same problems plaguingour country before are still the same today? The difference now beingis that much of the burden now falls upon us. Of course, many of uswere born or grew up during the post-Marcos era, a time when there wasless chaos, hardships and uncertainties. We grew up surrounded in anage of MTV, 3G cellphones, iPods and Playstations while the only tyranny or oppression that we know of are the ones in history books orin action movies. Perhaps that is the reason why the youth nowadays don't really care much about the ZTE-Lozada issue. As I was inviting my org mates to the concert over YM a few days back, one of themmessaged me sighing in disappointment while another accused of me not believing in the cause. Of course, a lot of people would be asking meif they had the chance, "Why, Ryan?" Why volunteer for this? You have 22 units worth of subjects thissemester. You still have two term papers, three oral exams and fourwritten finals left. Your thesis defense is scheduled on Thursday andyou have a job interview on Wednesday morning. So why put yourself through more hell, Ryan? You could just finish everything and be scotfree in a month's time.

Why do it?Why? Simple. Why not?

There are many events in our lives that happen not on our choosing. Weare either the victims or the makers of history. In the case of theZTE-Lozada Scandal, it is pretty clear of how government notperforming their duties properly. We only have to trace back the oldissues in order to see the ineptitude of GMA as a leader and as thePresident of the Republic. It is also clear that the Filipino peoplewant real change in society and so do we. However, if we do wantchange, then we have to be willing to take action and not just bearmchair critics of this corrupt administration. There is a line froman old Native American song that goes "We do not inherit the earthfrom our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." If we don't fixthe problems of today, it will be the next generation who will have toface them in the coming years.So there we have it. The concert that Team RP put together might have been one of the lesser celebrations in this year's commemorations ofPeople Power. Nevertheless, it was a show of force saying that we, theFilipino youth, will not stand idly by while the Arroyo mafia steals our future away from us. Of course, we know that if a new presidentcomes, that he or she will probably be corrupt. Of course, we knowthat corruption has become so well entrenched in our institutions thatit will take decades for it to be eradicated. The point we are makingis that we want get started now so change can happen sooner and notlater.At the end of the day, the concert was just the beginning. The realwork starts from this point on. There are a lot of events lined up andtons of work to be done. At least, I have an excuse to not libre anyone when I got back to school (not my problem if you didn't show upat the concert I helped setup).Happy 22nd birthday, Ryan. Now get back to work!

P. Ryan Chung
Ateneo de Manila University
BS Biology Batch 2008Team
RPSecretariat and Documentations Head

Friday, February 15, 2008

Where are the Filipino Youth?

Where are the Filipino Youth?
by: Harvey S. Keh

The past weeks we have witnessed yet another political scandal that has rocked our country, the ZTE Broadband Scam wherein former COMELEC chairman Benjamin Abalos with the apparent blessings of the First Gentleman, Mike Arroyo was said to have asked for a commission of US$ 130 Million or a whopping 6 Billion Pesos in exhange for his influencing our government's decision to award the broadband deal to ZTE, a Chinese Telecommunications Company. To make this happen, the ZTE Broadband Contract was greatly overpriced at US$ 329 Million and worse, the government to be able to make this deal push through would have to loan this amount from the Chinese government. In short, the US$ 130 Million kickback of Abalos and his cohorts will have to be paid for by our tax money.

To make things even worse, the govenrment tried its darn best to cover this deal by pressuring Joey De Venecia, the first star witness to stop talking abouit this in the Senate and in public, Joey didn't want to cover up the truth thus, Malacañang led by the congressman sons of President GMA led a revolt at Congress which ousted Joey's dad, then Speaker Jose De Venecia. The next star witness whose courage we so admire, Jun Lozada initially didn't want to go to the Senate and take part in their investigation because as he said, if he ends up in the Senate, he will be forced to say the Truth. Again, our government tried every trick to ensure that Lozada wouldn't be able to testify in the Senate, leading to his alleged kidnapping as soon as he arrived from Hong Kong where he hid for a few days. Two men picked up Lozada as soon as he got out of the plane and brought him around Metro Manila and even to Laguna against his will. If that can happen to Jun Lozada, that can happen to every Filipino in this country. In Jun Lozada's words, when he was picked up against his will, he already thought about the late Bobby Dacer who at the height of the Erap impeachment was also picked up by unidentified men and after weeks of looking for him, they finally found his body along with the body of his driver.

I can go on and on about this but the point is, this government has continued to steal our people's money from under our nose and they continue doing this because they know they can get away with it. Just look at the many scandals that have rocked the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo which we already have no idea what happened like the 1 Billion Peso Fertilizer Scam and the Hello Garci Scandal. As Jun Lozada further said in his testimony at the Senate, the Standard Operating Procedure in our country now is that every government contract is overpriced by 20%, the 20% goes to the pockets of our government leaders who helped in pushing the deal. This is indeed very disappointing since 6 Billion Pesos can help build so many classrooms for our public school students, it can provide so many college scholarships to deserving students, it can help build public hospitals so people can receive proper health care and it can provide adequate housing to thousands of families. But in this case, 6 Billion Pesos will just end up in the pockets of one or maybe a few families and worse, we will all have to pay for their greed.

Nakakainis at Nakakagalit ang nangyayari sa ZTE Deal na to, harap harapan na tayong ginagago ng gobyerno natin and as one of my students in class said, he wouldn't be surprised if another scandal comes out within the next few months... it seems that Malacañang is already so used to scandals because they know they will eventually get away with it once media and the public grow tired of hearing about these scandals. Pero para sa akin, mas nakakalungkot na parang walang pakialam at walang ginagawa ang karamihan sa kabataang Pilipino sa mga nangyayaring ito, it seems that the Filipino Youth which led the charge in EDSA 2 is nowhere to be found. Could it be that the Filipino Youth has given up all Hope for making this country great again? Could it be the Filipino Youth has given up in its fight for a clean and effective government? Has the youth given up on our future? I hope I am wrong because what is at stake here is not just my future or the future of the poor, it is our shared future that we have to continue to fight for. Ayaw ba natin na dumating ang araw na bawat Pilipino pwede nang magkaroon ng kalidad na edukasyon? Ayaw ba natin na dumating ang araw na hindi na natin kailangang mag abroad at mahiwalay sa pamilya para magakaroon ng magandang trabaho? If we can all work together and join forces, we can show this administration that we will not just sit idly while they continue to corrupt and destroy our future, remember that in 2010 the Filipino Youth will be able to elect the next President of our country.
Let us not wait till then to make a change, let us act now, our country needs US Now!

If you want to help and be part of a youth-led initiative that will push for genuine and lasting reforms in our government, please email me at or you can help by forwarding this email to your friends who might be interested to help. Let's meet, Let's Talk and Let's all work together for our country.

*Harvey Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship of the Ateneo de Manila-School of Government and a Lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila University-Loyola Schools' Development Studies Program and Department of Theology. Harvey is also Executive Director of AHON Foundation, a corporate foundation of Filway Marketing, Inc. that helps build public elementary school libraries.